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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
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The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Simon Despres
Ducks' Despres Collects Two Helpers
Simon Despres, D, ANA
12:32 PM
News: Simon Despres notched two assists in Tuesday's Game 3 loss to the Flames.
Analysis: Simon Despres continues to shine in his first playoffs as a Duck. He now has five points -- all assists -- in his seven postseason games thus far. Despres had failed to tally any points in his meagre six games of playoff experience with the Penguins. While his role on the Ducks may be limited playing behind the likes of Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm, Despres should continue to see regular ice and could become a valuable fantasy producer in the coming seasons.

Frederik Andersen
Ducks' Andersen Suffers First Postseason Loss
Frederik Andersen, G, ANA
12:23 PM
News: Frederik Andersen went 17-of-21 in Tuesday's Game 3 loss to the Flames.
Analysis: Not a great outing from the Dane as he allowed the tying goal late in the third and was then beaten early in OT to let Game 3 slip away. However, due to his previously unbeaten record in the playoffs, he probably deserves a pass on this one. Look for Frederik Andersen to return to the cage in Calgary on Friday night for Game 4.

Devan Dubnyk
Wild's Dubnyk Going For Game 3
Devan Dubnyk, G, MIN
12:08 AM
News: Devan Dubnyk will be between the pipes for Tuesday's Game 3 against the Blackhawks.
Analysis: Devan Dubnyk has hardly looked sharp in the first two games of the series, stopping just 58 of 65 shots (.892 save percentage). With the Wild now down 2-0 as the series shifts to Minnesota, the team will need the Masterson Trophy nominee to come up huge to keep their playoff hopes alive. During 20 regular-season starts at the Xcel Energy Center, Dubnyk went 12-7-1 with a 2.01 GAA and .922 save percentage.

Corey Crawford
Crawford Stops All 30, 'Hawks Go Up 3-0
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
5/5/2015
News: Corey Crawford turned away all 30 pucks the Wild fired on him in Tuesday's 1-0 Game 3 victory.
Analysis: Ever since retaking the reins from Scott Darling in Game 6 against Nashville, Corey Crawford has been a man on fire, stopping 103 of 107 shots (.962) over the last four games -- all Blackhawks wins. In fact, he's made exactly 30 saves in three straight games. There's no doubt that Crawford will be in there once more for Game 4 in Minnesota on Thursday.

Patrick Kane
Hawks' Kane Scores Lone Game 3 Goal
Patrick Kane, RW, CHI
5/5/2015
News: Patrick Kane scored the game's only goal Tuesday against the Wild, with his first-period power-play tally holding up for a 1-0 win and 3-0 series lead.
Analysis: It was his only shot on goal of the game, but it was the only one he needed. Patrick Kane's now on a six-game playoff point streak, and he's scored goals in four straight contests. He'll look to make it five Thursday in Minnesota as the Blackhawks go for the sweep.

Micheal Ferland
Flames' Ferland Out For Game 3
Micheal Ferland, LW, CGY
5/5/2015
News: Updating a previous report, Micheal Ferland (upper body) was made a late scratch and will not play in Tuesday's Game 3 against the Ducks, Wes Gilbertson of the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: All indications were that Micheal Ferland was trending toward a return to the lineup after partaking in the Flames' warmup seemingly without incident, but coach Bob Hartley ended up calling a late audible. As a result, Markus Granlund will assume a spot in the lineup, while Ferland misses a second straight match due to injury.

Kris Versteeg
Blackhawks' Versteeg To Sit Out Game 3
Kris Versteeg, RW, CHI
5/5/2015
News: Kris Versteeg (lower body) will not play in Tuesday's Game 3 against the Wild, Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago reports.
Analysis: Kris Versteeg demonstrated some progress by traveling with the Blackhawks to Minnesota, but he'll sit out a third straight contest with the injury. Teuvo Teravainen, who has tallied a point in each of the first two games of the series, will continue to skate on Chicago's third line.

Justin Fontaine
Wild's Fontaine Out For Game 3
Justin Fontaine, RW, MIN
5/5/2015
News: Justin Fontaine (lower body) will not play in Tuesday's Game 3 against the Blackhawks, Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.
Analysis: Justin Fontaine will sit for a second straight game while he contends with the injury. Kyle Brodziak slots in as the Wild's fourth-line right wing.

Bryan Bickell
Hawks' Bickell Leads NHL In Hits
Bryan Bickell, LW, CHI
5/5/2015
News: Bryan Bickell leads the NHL in hits going into Game 3 off the Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinals on Tuesday night.
Analysis: Bryan Bickell has 58 hits through eight games which is overshadowing his lack of scoring in the playoffs which is only two assists. He had 11 hits and 12 hits in Game 1 and 2 respectively against the Wild. Coming into the series with the Wild, Bickell had Minnesota's number In 23 games against the Wild the past three seasons, Bickell has scored 15 goals, 20 points and is a plus-11, but it appears that Hawks' coach Joel Quenneville wants him to take a more physical approach.

Nathan Beaulieu
Habs' Beaulieu Practices Tuesday
Nathan Beaulieu, D, MON
5/5/2015
News: Nathan Beaulieu (upper body) took part in practice Tuesday for the Canadiens, Sportsnet.ca reports.
Analysis: The Canadiens have already ruled Nathan Beaulieu out for the next two games of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with the Lightning, but his return to practice could allow him to return as soon as Game 5. His progress will be monitored over the next several days.

 
 
 
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